The Jordano Era
In November 1997, with the University of Pittsburgh baseball program struggling and in need of a new direction, the Panthers turned to Joe Jordano to step in as head coach. Now, more than 530 wins later, Pitt has reached new heights in the national polls and sent more than 50 players to pro baseball under his leadership. Having built the program into a regional power, Jordano is poised to guide the Panthers through another major moment in their history as he aims to make the leap to compete for an ACC Championship.
“We have come a long way in all aspects of the program,” says Jordano. “It was my goal to establish a foundation of a program that would sustain a high level of respectability and success. We’ve embraced every challenge and have established a program that is well-respected, produces quality student-athletes, and is an asset to the University. I feel strongly that we have made solid progress in positioning our program to take the next step.”
“I realized very quickly the announcement was made to enter into the ACC, the transition was going to be very challenging and would take some time,” Jordano noted. “There is no question that we are making strides in establishing depth and a balance among our classes. When you look back on our past three seasons, 20 of our conference losses were by a total 25 runs. That is a player or two away from being very good. We have had a few tough injuries as well especially on the mound that has very much affected our rotation as well as depth in the bullpen. When you have two or three potential weekend starters go down prior to the season as we have had over the past two years – and entering into this season – it is a tough hurdle to clear. It does, however, provide opportunities for our younger players to gain valuable experience. The 2017 season will be a challenge with so many young players that expected to contribute but it certainly bodes well for a bright future of our program. I have a great staff and we have brought in a great recruiting class this year and our 2017 class is incredible. I am equally as excited about our commitments well into the future. We are very much anticipating the new Pitt Script branding initiative that will transform the look Charles L. Cost Field, our locker room and entry into the support building for this coming season.”
Pitt competed in its fourth season as a member of the ACC in 2017, capturing nine wins in conference play, highlighted by a sweep of Virginia Tech and a win over No. 3 North Carolina. The Panthers knocked off the eventual ACC Coastal Division Champion North Carolina in the finale at Charles L. Cost Field, earning a series sweep of the Hokies in the third week of ACC play in late March.
Jordano continued his success of developing players who would continue their baseball careers, as a trio of players were taken in the 2017 MLB First Year Player Draft. Senior pitcher Josh Falk heard his name called in the 17th round, followed by Isaac Mattson in the 19th and Josh Mitchell in the 22nd. Catcher Manny Pazos would also ink a professional deal, signing with the Seattle Mariners by an undrafted free agent.
The Panthers continued to build in the nation’s premier baseball conference during the 2016 season, knocking off four nationally-ranked programs in No. 6 North Carolina, No. 11 Florida State, No. 14 Clemson and No. 25 Georgia Tech. In addition, Pitt produced a first round draft pick for just the second time in program history and the first under Jordano, as T.J. Zeuch was selected with the 21st overall pick by the Toronto Blue Jays on June 9, 2016. Jordano saw five players hear their names called in the draft, as Charles Leblanc was taken in the fourth round by the Texas Rangers. Leblanc was joined by Alex Kowalczyk in the Rangers’ organization, as the senior catcher was taken in the 12th round. Senior outfielder Aaron Schurbusch joined the White Sox organization in the 28th round, while junior utility man Nick Yarnall was tabbed in the 35th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. All five players opted to continue their careers in the big leagues, carrying on a long tradition of professional success under Jordano.
The 2016 season also brought the first All-ACC selections in program history, as four Panthers landed on the all-conference lists. Leblanc copped first-team recognition after winning the league’s batting title, posting a .409 average for the highest in the ACC since 2009. Zeuch garnered second-team recognition, while Yarnall landed on the third-team and Yaya Chentouf was named to the all-freshman squad.
The 2014 and 2015 campaigns saw the Panthers record signature victories while they worked to transition into one of the nation’s top baseball conferences. In 2014, the team claimed its first-ever win over the nation’s top squad by defeating No.1 Virginia, 2-1. The Panthers matched the feat in 2015, once again downing a top-ranked Cavaliers squad and eventual National Champions, 1-0.
In 2014, the team claimed wins over No. 17 North Carolina, No. 20 Clemson and a sweep of No. 23 Georgia Tech. Despite a 2015 season wracked by injury and talent lost to the professional draft, Jordano and his staff led the team to a dramatic series victory over No.11 North Carolina with a Sunday walk-off win. His consistent excellence was rewarded with his 500th career win as Pitt’s head coach on March 18, 2014.
The 2013 season, Pitt’s last in the Big East, was one of the most successful in program history as the Panthers won a school-record 42 games and were ranked for a program-best seven weeks during the season, climbing as high as a program-best 16th in the nation. Pitt also cracked the rankings of all five major baseball publications for the first time ever. A school-record eight Panthers took home All-Big East honors. Jordano also became the program’s all-time leader in coaching wins the year before in 2012, surpassing Bobby Lewis’ 399 (1955-1990), en route to his second Big East Coach of the Year award.
In the spring of 2011, the Panthers opened up their new home at Charles L. Cost Field at the Petersen Sports Complex. That season, Jordano guided the team to a third place finish in the Big East and a berth in the conference championships. As evidence of his success in skills development, six of Jordano's players' were selected in the 2011 MLB entry draft, the highest ever in the program's existence.
The 2010 season, the last at Trees Field, had also brought success to Jordano and his squad as the Panthers boasted one of the most dangerous lineups in collegiate baseball. Following that year, Jordano was named the ABCA East Region Coach of the Year and garnered the first ever Chuck Tanner Collegiate Baseball Manager of the Year award.
Highlights from Jordano’s first decade at the helm showcase the consistency he’s infused in the program. From 2002-2005, Jordano put together the best four-year winning stretch in the program's 109-year history, capturing a total of 143 wins over that span. The team’s 38 wins in 2004 tied for the second-most victories in a single season. The 2004 season also saw the Panthers appear in the Big East Championship in Somerset, N.J. – to which they returned the following season in 2005. Other 2004 accolades were numerous, capped by Jordano meriting his first Big East Coach of the Year honors.
Jordano’s first head coaching position was at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. During his 10-year reign on the Hill, Jordano's numbers speak for themselves: 283 wins against only 118 losses; six post-season appearances; two conference championships in his two years in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference; 30 All-Region players; four All-Americans; and several players in professional baseball. Upon leaving Mercyhurst, he was the winningest coach in school history. Jordano was also named the GLIAC Coach of the Year twice and was the Louisville Slugger NCAA DII Independent Coach of the Year in 1995. During his stay, Jordano also served on the NCAA DII National Baseball Committee and served as a chairman of the North Central Baseball Region. On May 17, 2009, Jordano was inducted into the Mercyhurst College Hall of Fame.
Jordano has been honored by groups over the past several years for his contributions to baseball. In 2003, he was named "Baseball Man of the Year" in Erie, Pa. - his hometown, for "appreciation for his lifetime support and devotion to baseball on the local and collegiate levels." Following the 2004 season, Jordano was recognized by the Team Pittsburgh Group of Erie and was also awarded an Honorary Lifetime membership to the San Francisco Bay Area Pitt Club. Jordano was also inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame – Erie Metro Chapter in 2010.
While at the University of Pittsburgh, Jordano has served on the NCAA Regional Advisory Committee as well as President of the Big East Coaches group for four years, 2000-04. He currently sits as Regional Chair for the American Baseball Coaches Association and the ABCA Division I Advisory Board.
Along the way, Jordano has also earned the respect of some of the top collegiate coaches in the country:
LSU Head Coach Paul Maineri
"Joe Jordano is without a doubt one of the finest college baseball coaches in the country and a man I admire very much. He has done a remarkable job with the program at the University of Pittsburgh. While I was coaching at Notre Dame and in the Big East, I always enjoyed the competition with the Panthers because we knew Pitt would always be well prepared, play hard, and play with a great deal of enthusiasm. I always attributed this to the way Joe handled his team and the competitive fire that he possesses. It seemed his teams always took on his personality, as they played the game with a lot of confidence and had a lot of fun. We had some tough losses to Pitt through the years; however, every time we lost to them I walked away from the game feeling that Pitt deserved to win because they outplayed us."
Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin
"Very seldom do you come across a coach on the other side of the field that you truly respect, admire and like....Joe Jordano is that coach. He is a coach that can relate well with young people and get the very most out of them - that has been very apparent at Pittsburgh. Although he is a friend, I consider him one of the best baseball coaches in the country."
Jerry Oakes is set to begin his thirdseason as the pitching coach at the University of Pittsburgh after being added to the staff by head coach Joe Jordano in August of 2012.
In his second season with the Panthers, Oakes guided the pitching staff to a second-consecutive season with a sub-4.00 earned run average. The team ERA of 3.97 from 2014 stands as the second lowest by a Pitt team since at least 1993. Three pitchers - Luke Curtis, Joseph Harvey and Matt Wotherspoon - who all helped achieve the feat were selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. That total stands as the most Pitt pitchers drafted in one seasonin program history.
Oakes' debut season with Pitt featured a highly successful pitching rotation. The staffposted the lowest ERA (3.59) for the Panther program since 1981 as Pitt won a school-record 42 games.
All three of the Panthers' weekend starters earned All-Big East honors, including Ethan Mildren who earned All-Region honors as well. The weekend rotation combined for a 27-7 record and a 2.93 ERA. Additionally, Mildren and Wotherspoon were selected in the 2013 MLB draft.
Oakes joined the Panthers' coaching staff after spending the last four years at perennial power Coastal Carolina where he worked with the pitchers and outfielders. During Oakes' tenure, the Chanticleers dominated the Big South, winning the all four regular season and conference tournament titles. Fueled in large part by their pitching staff, Coastal won 40-plus games all four seasons, including a Division I-best 55 victories during the 2010-11 campaign.